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Engineering Knowledge Building: The Bridge Between Research, Practice, And Teaching

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.556.1 - 9.556.11



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Paper Authors

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Caroline Baillie

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Engineering Knowledge Building: The bridge between research, practice and teaching Caroline Baillie

Integrated learning centre, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Queens University, Ontario


Academic engineers appear to me to have parallel lives. They spend much of their waking hours measuring, modelling, discovering, theorising and debating their ideas with colleagues. This, they call research. They are learning new knowledge about the world they live in. The other part of their job involves teaching the students what they know about that part of the knowledge in their charge. They are helping the students to learn knowledge which is new for them. Learning is in fact the space in which these two, usually conflicting activities should coincide. However, one part of the Academic, the Researcher, believes that knowledge is negotiable and uncertain, to be discovered and rediscovered all their lives and beyond. The other part, the Teacher, appears to believe that knowledge has one truth and that this truth can be taught to willing recipients of this wisdom without negotiation.

Bowden and Marton1 define learning on the individual level as what happens in the process of study and learning on the collective level as what happens through research. However, they are concerned that there is not enough relationship between these two processes of learning and see that the study of learning processes is now dealt with in separated disciplines from the knowledge to be learnt.

‘Through the course of history, questions relating to how knowledge is formed have become separated from different domains of knowledge – of whatever kind.’ (Bowden and Marton1p285).

For the purpose of this paper we will consider an intimate relation between learning and knowing or becoming knowledgeable about something. It is my belief that enabling engineers to reflect on the knowledge they negotiate and on the process of negotiation itself, they will be able to help students live the spirit of discovery. What students will learn within the University will then be more akin to how to be an engineer, rather than how to pass exams.

Certain educational researchers take the perspective that teachers need to help students think and reflect for themselves (personal constructivism) or that scientific understandings are constructed when individuals engage socially in shared tasks (social constructivism). Some researchers have discovered that both are necessary2. There is a lot of agreement across very different educational theories but not very much implementation into practice. There are not many practical suggestions or related training courses for scientific applications of such theories. Neither is there a suggestion that the engineering being discussed can have more than one understanding, or that the engineers need to reflect on their own process of learning the subject matter itself, as well as

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering”

Baillie, C. (2004, June), Engineering Knowledge Building: The Bridge Between Research, Practice, And Teaching Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12820

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